PANOLA COUNTY, MS— A Mississippi family is scared for their lives after talking with police about a deadly hit and run. A witness says the driver, 17 year old Matthew Whitten Darby, killed 61 year old Johnny Lee Butts who was walking along Highway 310 in Panola County. The witness' family believes Butts was killed because he was black, and now the family is receiving death threats from the driver's friends.
"We've had a lot of threats on Facebook, people driving by our house and squealing tires in the middle of the night right when we walk through the door. Then yesterday (Friday) on the interstate they pulled up beside me giving me dirty looks, flipping me off,” said Hope Hopper as she fought back her tears.
She told Abc24 News 3 teenagers, friends with Darby, started threatening her and her family right after the murder of Butts. Hopper's 18 year old son was in Darby’s backseat when it happened and she believes Darby killed Butts because he was black.
"The 2 boys freaked out. My son and a 15 year old in the front seat wanted him (Darby) to stop,” Hopper told abc24 news. “It was raciest and 2 of those kids freaked out and couldn't do anything couldn't get out of the car. They were scared they were going to be killed."
Hopper says her son was only doing the right thing and now her entire family is being threatened.
"Anyone that knows us knows that we love everybody that it doesn't matter what color you are," she said. “Those kids hunt, those kids have guns, and they're making threats and you got to take it serious."
She's reported the threats to police but nothing's been done.
"I asked them to lock the boys up. So they know it's serious before anybody gets hurt but said they (police) are going to get back to me."
Now she's reaching out to the media, hoping the threats will stop.
"A man's been murdered and you need to stop what you're doing before you end up in jail," Hopper stated.
Hopper hopes this entire nightmare is over soon before anyone else gets hurt. Abc24 news tried speaking with the Panola County Sheriff about the threats, but our calls went unreturned.
Darby is the only one facing murder charges. He's being charged as an adult and investigators haven't ruled out race as the reason for the killing. Darby remains behind bars on a $300,000 bond.